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S. Korea asks regional football body to consider punishing N. Korea over crowdless World Cup qualifier

October 18, 2019

South Korea’s national football federation said Friday it has asked the sport’s continental governing body to consider penalizing North Korea for hosting a recent World Cup qualifier behind closed doors.

The Korea Football Association (KFA) said it sent a letter to the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) on Thursday, expressing its regrets over North Korea’s lack of cooperation in staging the inter-Korean World Cup qualifier in Pyongyang on Tuesday.

North Korea shunned South Korea’s repeated inquiries regarding traveling and other administrative issues until the last minute. North Korea also declined to approve trips by South Korean nationals other than the players and the national team support staffers, leaving fans and journalists in the dark.

The match at Kim Il-sung Stadium was held without spectators in the stands, though it was expected to draw up to 40,000, and it wasn’t broadcast live to the South Korean audience.

“We asked North Korea on multiple occasions for help in allowing our media and supporters to travel to Pyongyang, but North Korea refused to cooperate,” the KFA said. “We believe the AFC should review whether it should discipline North Korea’s football association for its lack of cooperation in these and other matters.”

The KFA cited a clause in the AFC Competition Operations Manual that states, “Each host organization shall ensure that visas and/or entry to the relevant territory are granted to the AFC Delegation, all members of any team official delegation(s), the AFC commercial rights partner, official licensees, media, and travelling supporters, without any discrimination on the basis of, without limitation, gender, race, or nationality.”

The two Koreas played to a 0-0 draw in their Group H meeting in the second Asian qualifying round for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. The match was so physical that South Korean players later said they were lucky to have escaped Pyongyang without getting hurt.

The South Korean national team returned home Thursday with a DVD copy of the match, but its video quality was so poor that state broadcaster KBS scrapped its plan to air it.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino has said he was “disappointed” with North Korea’s decision to host the match behind closed doors, and South Korean government officials have also expressed their regrets.

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